Days of “exceptionally dangerous” fuel protests are putting activists and officers at “unacceptable” risk of harm as the number of arrests are set to top 350, Essex Police have said.
Activists from Just Stop Oil and Extinction Rebellion have been blocking access to oil terminals in Essex, demanding that the government stops new oil and gas projects.
There have been 338 arrests since the protests began on April 1 and another 26 arrests are about to be made.
It comes after more than 20 protesters arrived at Exolum Storage in Grays on Sunday morning.
Assistant Chief Constable Glen Pavelin said: “We cannot stand by while criminal acts are being committed, and lives are being put at risk, in the name of protest.
“We are not anti-protest. Our job is to preserve life and catch criminals, and that’s what we’re going to do.
“Today’s protest is exceptionally dangerous due to where the protesters have located themselves within the site.
“Our officers have been diligent in ensuring that all protesters know the risks involved, and we’ve been working hard to minimise the dangers this morning. Put simply: we don’t want anyone to get hurt.”
The force has said that policing protests in Thurrock had cost Essex Police “in excess of £1 million”.
Mr Pavelin said of the protesters whose “acts of criminality on site are not only illegal, but they are continuing to put themselves and our officers at real risk of harm and that is unacceptable.”
The impact of the protests is being felt by the people of Essex and beyond, he said.
He added: “We’ve been lucky to have extra support from specialist officers from across the country, to support some of our officers continuing with their day jobs.”
The force is working with organisations including Thurrock Council, the East of England Ambulance Service, Essex County Fire and Rescue Service, plus the local fuel companies to handle the protests while also having to deal with local crime.
Warwickshire Police said that a further 29 arrests have been made this weekend in connection with ongoing protests at Kingsbury Oil Terminal.
Those in custody have been arrested for offences including criminal damage, conspiracy to cause criminal damage, and conspiracy to commit public nuisance in what Assistant Chief Constable Ben Smith described as “another busy weekend” for the force.
This takes the total number of arrests to 180 since the protests began on April 1.
Mr Smith, who said there would be a heightened police presence at the site over the coming days, added: “This weekend’s protest activity has been contained to the Piccadilly Way area and has caused little disruption to the wider community, or to the operations of the oil terminal.
“While we will always recognise and respect the public’s right to peaceful protest, we will take action against anyone who breaks the law or causes significant impact on the local community.”
He thanked the public for their ongoing patience and said the force is working to minimise disruption to the local community and the road networks.